Film negative printer scan scanning tutorial

The Ultimate Getting Started Guide to Scanning Film

Over the previous few years, worldwide curiosity in analog images has exploded. Increasingly individuals, for one cause or another, are discovering (or rediscovering) the gorgeous world of movie.

Being a born again movie shooter myself, I’m completely happy to see this regular resurgence of this “Analog Renaissance.”

That doesn’t imply that the increased use of film is free from its share of problems. Specifically, what the hell do you do together with your movie after it’s been processed? Let’s face it, a comparatively small proportion of us are in a position (or prepared) to print our pictures from our negatives within the darkroom. We will have them printed at photograph labs, positive, but the prices rapidly pile up.

Not only that however one of the reasons individuals appear to be getting back into capturing film is as a result of they long for a stronger connection to their photographs… and turning them over to another person for printing seems to defeat the purpose. There are additionally dedicated movie scanners obtainable to purchase, however there again, prices could be a problem.

Take coronary heart! There’s a simple, low cost and more practical approach for you to have the most effective of both worlds: shoot film and deal with changing it digitally for sharing or printing and not using a darkroom. It’s referred to as “hybrid processing.” Hybrid processing is only a cool identify for the method of first acquiring photographs using movie and then changing those photographs to digital information using a scanner.

It’s also possible to do this together with your DSLR… but that’s one other article. Right now, we’re going to speak concerning the fundamentals of scanning your personal movie in an effort to revel within the heavenly glory that is movie images. We’ll see what important instruments you’ll want and a few recommendations on making the perfect of your digitized film.

Notice: The majority of the knowledge discovered right here might be utilized to any sort of black and white and shade negatives or positives (corresponding to slide movie). Nevertheless, we’ll focus primarily on 35mm negatives in this article.

Terms to know

Before we get rolling (film humor) there are few widespread terms and phrases that you simply’ll need to understand to keep away from confusion as we transfer ahead. Listed here are some buzzwords that you simply’ll encounter as you study extra about scanning your personal movie:

  • Unfavourable movie – What we commonly think of as “negatives.” One of these film data a tonally reversed picture in both shade or black and white; which means that shiny areas seem darkish on the movie and darkish areas seem mild
  • Constructive film/slide movie/colour reversal movie – All these phrases refer to the same factor. Photographs on this kind of film seem just as they do in real life. In other words, you possibly can take a look at the film and see what you’ve shot.
  • PPI or PPCM – Pixels per inch or pixels per centimeter. A measure of scanning decision. The larger the PPI or PPCM, the higher the element and bigger the digital file measurement.
  • DPI-Dots per inch – A time period associated solely to bodily printers and never digital imaging. You may nonetheless encounter this when scanning. Typically used interchangeably, DPI shouldn’t be the identical as PPI or PPCM.
  • Newton Rings – No, Newton Rings aren’t something you’ll find in outer area however are as an alternative the identify for ugly banding displayed by improperly scanned movie.


I do know it might come as a shock however the main device you will want to scan your film is… *drum roll* … a scanner! Sure, you will want some sort of flatbed scanner. Most all-in-one forms of printer/scanners right now might be greater than enough. The key to a top quality scan will lie extra in how you handle the negatives fairly than the facility of your scanner — more on this in only a minute.

Which scanner?

Properly, any scanner. For the majority of my work, I exploit an Epson V700 Photograph. It’s an older scanner which I bought used; not something that might be thought-about “top of the line” at present.

Depending on the scanner which you occur to be using, there are some things to contemplate whereas understanding a couple of easy ideas and figuring out what you hope to obtain out of your scans. Managing your expectations based mostly on the instruments you occur to be using, and the result you’re hoping for will go a great distance to avoid being dissatisfied.

Reflective vs Transparency

How your scanner bodily acquires the scans makes an enormous distinction in how you’ll deal with the ensuing photographs. There are two important forms of scanning processes: reflective and transparency. Some scanners are able to each and a few only one. Let’s break it down.

Reflective Scanning

That is the kind of scanning that you simply’re doubtless most conversant in and the one that’s the most typical. With reflective scanning, the scanner will shine a vibrant mild on the floor of the thing and “see” how it’s mirrored back.

That is the method used whenever you scan a doc or photograph. Primarily, what you see is what you get. Here’s what occurs once I scan a four×5 damaging and movie holder whereas the scanner is about to reflective.

While that is great for constructive scans like slide movie when it comes to negatives, reflective scanning requires slightly post-processing to flip the adverse image right into a constructive. The course of of remodeling a unfavourable to a constructive image is, and I’ll clarify exactly the way it’s finished once we reach the processing section.

Transparency Scanning

This is very a lot identical to it sounds. As an alternative of reading the light mirrored off the item, a transparency scan measures the sunshine which passes by way of the thing, in our case, film. Scanners with the power to scan transparencies will seem to have two separate scanning beds.

Whereas scanners which can’t scan in transparency mode won’t, reminiscent of this all-in-one scanner/printer.

Opinions do range, however the common angle is that transparency scanning the perfect selection for scanning movie negatives. Most proprietary software program which is often included with transparency scanners steadily incorporates a perform which can mechanically invert the damaging right into a constructive picture and are a lot better suited if you may be frequently scanning your negatives. Additionally they will probably have more accessories out there which are geared in the direction of helping photographers digitize their movie. Talking of which…

Film holders

One of many key parts of acquiring quality film scans is maintaining the film as flat as potential in relation to the scanning surface. Giant format and even medium format movie are much less susceptible to curling.

Larger film stocks usually lie flat easily.

However, 35mm film is sort of challenging to stay flat on their very own within the scanner.

Smaller movie stocks like this 35mm…not so much.

In case your film isn’t completely flat, you’ll experience some nasty results akin to distortion and the dreaded Newton Rings. That is the place movie holders are available.

Most trendy scanners or scanner/printers, especially those that are able to transparency scanning, will probably have devoted film holders out there. A movie holder would be the most simple technique for maintaining your movie flat and secured during scanning. Whereas not solely required, a film holder is a relatively low-cost investment with many being obtainable for $20-$30US on-line.

A quick internet search for your scanner’s make and mannequin, including the phrase “film holder” will probably yield quite a number of choices.

A Quick Word on Resolution

DPI and PPI. Dots and pixels and determination? Oh my. When it comes to the decision of your scans, it’s straightforward to get confused and even easier to discover a multitude of opinions on what is the “optimal” decision for scanning your film. The brief answer is… there isn’t a reply. In fact, the resolution of your scans is immediately dependant on these three issues:

  • The place will your photographs be seen?
  • How giant would you like your image information?
  • What measurement will your picture most commonly be seen?

Scanning your film will endlessly be an exercise in compromise. Extraordinarily high-resolution scans imply the file shall be monumental. In case you scan too low relative to the ultimate measurement of your picture will make it look pixelated. At this time, even probably the most modest scanners are able to resolutions upwards of 3200PPI (pixels per inch).

The excellent news is that for many scans, a much decrease decision is nearly all the time perfectly acceptable. Let’s take a look at an instance. Listed here are two scans of the identical unfavorable aspect by aspect: one at 3200PPI and the other at 600PPI. Each are set to 1500 pixels in width.

Left: Scanned at 600PPI · Proper: Scanned at 3200PPI

See much distinction? At this measurement… not likely. Now, let’s zoom in on that leaf…

Left: Scanned at 600PPI · Right: Scanned at 3200PPI

Notice how pixelated the lower decision scan appears when extremely cropped. This is where greater resolutions clearly beat out lower resolutions. The draw back, the 3200PPI scan sports a comparatively large file measurement of about 17.5 Megabytes compared to the 600PPI scan which comes in at slightly below 80 Kilobytes….

Until your scans can be seen very giant, there usually isn’t a necessity to scan at extremely excessive resolutions which can serve only to gobble up more room with out much discernable payoff when it comes to image quality. I seldom discover myself scanning at any decision over 2400PPI.

Hold it Clear…Really Clear.

If there’s one thing that may cause you probably the most problems when scanning your film, it’s mud and different nasties that can make their approach onto your scan. Fortuitously, with a bit diligence, you possibly can maintain these ugly issues to a minimum. The key’s to hold your scanner as completely clear as potential.

This implies being a bit proactive when it comes to your scanning. It’s really helpful that you simply hold your scanner coated when not in use to scale back the quantity of residual mud particles on and across the gear.

Earlier than every scan, use some compressed air or airbrush to take away any dust from the scanner. Additionally, use a recent static/lint-free material to clean the surface with a top quality optical cleaner gently. Never touch the glass together with your naked palms! It’s additionally a very good apply to flip off all ceiling fans and shut any home windows to permit the room air to settle prior to utilizing your scanner.


One of the nice issues about digitizing your movie is the convenience of post-processing. A scanned film image is not any totally different than another digital image and might be processed in the exact same means. Nevertheless, as we talked about earlier, any adverse which was scanned reflectively will still appear as a destructive picture even after it’s introduced into your processing software program.

The picture have to be reworked from a adverse right into a constructive. This is the place Photoshop saves the day and makes it potential to scan negatives even if you don’t have a transparency-capable scanner. Switching from a adverse to a constructive image in Photoshop couldn’t be easier. First, convey the unfavourable picture into Photoshop:

Next, underneath the ‘Image’ tab, choose ‘Adjustments’ after which ‘Invert.’

It’s simply that straightforward. No layers. No blending or masking. Simply a couple of clicks. From right here, you’ll be able to course of the picture additional inside Photoshop or reserve it as-is. See? I advised you there was nothing to it!

Ultimate Thoughts on Scanning Film…

On the earth of movie images, you will encounter extraordinarily polarized attitudes in the direction of scanning film. Many photographers swear by it whereas others view the complete concept of working together with your negatives anyplace exterior of a darkroom as nothing in need of blasphemy.

Regardless of the place you may stand on the subject, there isn’t a denying that the accessibility and flexibility of hybrid processing is something that opens up a completely new photographic experience. The organic nuances of movie blended with the convenience of digital? Positive, signal me up.

In fact, the standard of end result can differ drastically when it comes to scanning your personal film at residence. On the similar time, it’s an extremely straightforward and budget-friendly method to manifest your creativity via images, which is what all of us attempt to obtain. I hope the knowledge discovered in this article helps to shine somewhat mild on a completely new horizon of images for you. Now get out there and shoot!